How I Get It Done: Reformation Founder Yael Aflalo

Illustration: by Lauren Tamaki

In 2009, Yael Aflalo founded her clothing company Reformation as a side gig. Ten years later, she’s created arguably the most successful sustainable fashion brand of all time. “It” girls, models, and fashion tastemakers including Karlie Kloss, Emma Roberts, and Emily Ratajkowski are paying customers. The company’s estimated 2017 revenue is over $100 million, while also securing a total of $37 million over the course of two rounds of fundraising. There are currently 14 stores with more on the way. Aflalo lives in L.A. with her 2-year-old daughter and her partner, Ludvig Frössén, who is the creative director at Reformation. Here’s how she gets it all done.

On her morning routine:
My daughter says, “Mama, get up” ten times, and then I get up and make us a smoothie. I get dressed and drive to work. I don’t do any zen activities in the morning — I hang out with my daughter and I leave the house. I used to do wellness activities before I had a daughter, but now she’s my wellness activity.

On keeping a list of what to wear each day:
I’ve been obsessed with clothes my whole life, but then I took a break, and for the past four or five years I literally did not care about clothes. I was just like, I can’t do it anymore, you know what I mean? But recently I got back into it again. My new approach is very organized. I basically have a list on my computer of all the things that I want. Then I hunt them down and put different options next to the item, and I make my final decision once I have a few options. I’ve gotten kind of OCD about it.

On a typical workday:
My meetings range from fittings, reviewing fabrics, taking tours of new retail spaces, working with my leadership team, and interviewing new team members. It’s different every day, and that’s what I love about it.

On managing her inbox:
I still get a ton of emails, but they’re much more manageable than they used to be. I just realized I don’t need to be on every single email chain within the company. So if I’m on something that I don’t feel like I need to be, I just reply nicely, “Hey, I think you can take me off this chain.” I think that’s really important because if you’re on an e-mail chain there’s this understanding that you’re reading it. I try to make sure that I’m responsible for what I’m getting.

On her design process:
I get inspiration from Instagram, going shopping, looking at the internet, or seeing a really fashionable girl sitting next to me at dinner. We start off by asking, what are the biggest issues facing the environment? All this sustainability stuff can be really complicated, you know, and there’s so many bad things going on, for sure. But I would say that the No. 1 biggest issue right now is climate change. Climate change is directly affected by how many greenhouse gas emissions are in the atmosphere, so we’re very, very focused on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions specifically.

On how she’s evolved as a manager:
When I was younger I was very detail-oriented and focused on making every single thing perfect. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there’s more than one way to approach problems, and everybody sees things differently. I’ve learned to really appreciate that and approach each person individually, understanding what motivates them and how they approach problems. I’ve become a lot more flexible.

On what she looks for in a job candidate:
We have a kind of no-nonsense, down-to-earth culture at Reformation, so I’m really looking for somebody who’s gonna fit that. People who have big egos or take the credit for everything, or people who can’t take responsibility for things that have gone wrong in their careers, are generally personality types that struggle to fit in at our company.

On the most important thing she’s learned about running a business:
Maintain a very clear understanding of all the finances. I used to just look at the big numbers and didn’t really get too deep into it. Now I have a sharp eye on all of that stuff all the time.

On incorporating sustainability into her everyday life:
I probably wear 80 percent Reformation. If I’m not buying Reformation I tend to buy more expensive investment pieces. I buy them on RealReal or Vestiaire. In my work life, I’m very motivated when it comes to sustainability, but I’m a very lazy in my personal life. Everything in my house is natural and nontoxic and eco-friendly, but I only do it if it’s easy, you know? The onus of real change is on businesses, and consumers can use their purchasing power to make good decisions. With Reformation, we really go out of our way to be insanely sustainable.

On how she unwinds after work:
I read at night before I go to bed. Every night. I read books, I read the news. I’m reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. I love nonfiction. I especially love science, futurist books, and psychology books.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

*This post has been updated to show that Reformation’s estimated 2017 revenue is over $100 million.

How I Get It Done: Reformation Founder Yael Aflalo